WASHINGTON - Iran is directly supporting extremist Shi'ite groups that are killing US troops in Iraq and any agreement to keep American forces there beyond the end of the year would have to address the problem, the top US military officer said on Thursday.
Admiral Mike Mullen, speaking at a luncheon with reporters, said Iranians -- with full knowledge of Iran's leadership -- were providing Iraqi Shi'ite groups with high-tech rocket-assisted weapons and shaped explosives effective at penetrating armor.
"Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shia groups which are killing our troops," said Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "And there's no reason ... for me to believe that they're going to stop that as our numbers come down."
He said Iran made a conscious decision in 2008 to curb its involvement in Iraq, but had now resumed sending supplies to extremist groups, evidently positioning itself to be able to say that it had helped to drive US forces from the region.
"There's no question they want to influence, and particularly in the south," Mullen said. "They are shipping high-tech weapons in there ... which are killing our people and ... the forensics prove that."